Before we kick things off, I ask for a small favor: Take some time today to think about the friends and families of Mike Jarboe, Matt Graves, and Manny Ycaza, all of whom we’ve lost since last year’s closing day card. All three men loved Saratoga, and they’d have loved to be here on opening day.
Now, a quick introduction for those who are unfamiliar: In addition to the pick box, I’ll do a daily bankroll section with a few paragraphs of commentary and plays for the day. If you’ve got a question, a comment, or something you’d like to see me address here, tweet me at @AndrewChampagne. Finally, if you want to follow me all meet long, content will be posted to AndrewChampagne.com 36 hours or so in advance of each card.
FRIDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus on the third race, which houses my best bet of the day. That’s #6 MONTELEONE, who takes a sizable class drop and has run well against much better competition. I’ll put $10 on him to win, and also key him in $2 doubles that start and end there. Those doubles use #1 TOO FOOFOO FOR YOU, #4 DRYNACHAN, and #9 MIKE’S GIRL in the second, and #4 DOMINANT STRATEGY, #6 AZZEDINE, and #9 TERYN IT UP in the fourth.
TOTAL WAGERED: $22
Best Bet: Monteleone, Race 3
Longshot: Fightress, Race 8
BAD STUDENT: May not have liked the quirky surface at Parx last time out, when he sat close to a solid pace and faded late. He showed strong two-turn form earlier this year at Oaklawn and should be prominent early; NOBODY MOVE: Showed a new dimension last time out when wiring the field at Belmont Park. A repeat of that effort would make him very competitive in this spot, though such a picture-perfect trip is unlikely; HALLOWEEN HORROR: Merits a look in the exotics at a price. His dirt race here last summer was OK, and he drops way down in class after running against much better company in his last three starts.
Too Foofoo for You
DRYNACHAN: Has a stellar turf pedigree and is working well ahead of her debut for the formidable Chad Brown barn. If she runs to her works, she could be tough in her unveiling; TOO FOOFOO FOR YOU: Was second behind a next-out winner last month downstate. That early speed could make her the one to catch, although the rail draw is less than ideal; MIKE’S GIRL: Is by Scat Daddy and out of a mare that has produced a pair of winners. She’s worked well for a trainer that doesn’t always show off his runners’ talents in the mornings.
MONTELEONE: Lost all chance at the break last time out, so it’s easy to draw a line through that race. He hit the board in four straight starter allowance events before that and drops down in class significantly for aggressive connections; FORTYTHREEOEIGHT N: Comes back to the dirt second off the claim by Chris Englehart. His dirt races at Tampa this past winter were OK, and he could sit a perfect stalking trip at a nice price; SICILIA MIKE: Has made a heck of a living despite a 1 for 25 career mark to this point, with 10 seconds and five thirds to his credit. With a mark like that, it’s foolish to ignore him in vertical wagers.
Teryn It Up
AZZEDINE: Has run second three times in four tries against maiden special weight foes and drops in for a tag for the first time. Javier Castellano climbs aboard for Chad Brown, whose numbers with similar droppers are astounding; TERYN IT UP: Adds blinkers on the drop in class for Brian Lynch and exits a swiftly-run maiden special weight at Belmont Park. It helps that John Velazquez rides back, and he figures to be in the mix early; DOMINANT STRATEGY: Comes to the turf and drops down in class in an attempt to wake up this $520,000 auction purchase. His turf work a few days ago was sharp, and he’s shown some zip in his prior efforts.
WILD TYPE: Didn’t break well in her debut last month but has worked lights-out since then. Improvement is logical at second asking for a barn that’s hitting at a 28% clip with second-out maidens; LYRICAL LADY: Fetched $625,000 at auction earlier this year and has some strong gate drills on her tab. Her dam was Grade 3-placed at two, so precocity runs in the family; PLETCHER ENTRY: Blahnik and also-eligible Always Shopping can’t be ignored, but they’re both bred to go much longer than this 5 ½-furlong distance.
MISS MIMOSA: Bounced back last time out with a close-up second at Belmont Park. The last two workouts show she could be coming into this event in peak form for a barn whose horses tend to get better as they go along; CYPRIANA: Ran a good second in a six-furlong event last month. A repeat of that effort would give her a big shot, but that clunker two back still presents some questions; PALLADIAN BRIDGE: Likely needed her last race, which was her first outing since February. Before that, she had a productive winter, winning twice and running second in a stakes race, and she could provide some exotics value given her last-out performance.
HOLLYWOOD CAT: Merits a big chance for one of the hottest barns in the country if she draws in off the AE list. She was third in a stakes race here last summer, and there should be plenty of pace for her to rate behind; CUMBRIA: Hasn’t done much wrong since being switched to the turf three back. She hasn’t been worse than third since then, and she may get first run at the early leaders when the real running starts; DANCINGWITHPAYNTER: Will likely be a big price, but if you toss the two-back effort (her first start off a layoff), she hasn’t run a bad race in four starts on turf. She’s shown some flexibility, and it wouldn’t surprise me if she got a piece of it.
FIGHTRESS: Splashed home to a win in her debut at Churchill Downs, but the real draws here are the two workouts since that win. It certainly appears that she’s moved forward of late, and we’ll almost certainly get a nice price; TAPPING PEARL: Went wire-to-wire in her debut and boasts a strong local workout ahead of this event. She may want to go a bit longer given her pedigree, but unlike others in here, she’s not stretching out at all, which could help; CATHERINETHEGREAT: Romped by more than 10 lengths last time out, but that was at Gulfstream Park, over a sloppy track, and against a suspect field. That last-out Beyer Speed Figure (80) is lofty, but I’m skeptical she can reproduce such an effort, and she may need to in what appears to be a wide-open renewal of the Schuylerville.
Daddy Is a Legend
DADDY IS A LEGEND: Has been chasing some of the top 3-year-old turf fillies so far this year and is one of many in here that was victimized by a very slow early pace in the Grade 3 Wonder Again. This seems like a softer spot, and she’s shown she can be closer to the pace if need be; PUNKED: Was second in the Wild Applause Stakes downstate and is one of two Chad Brown trainees in the field. The rail draw and relative lack of pace in the race could mean she’s up close early on; ALTEA: Merits respect because of her connections, but is winless in North America and has only won once in eight career starts. The addition of blinkers is noteworthy, but she may need to be up closer to the pace early than she has been of late.
COUNTY COURT: Takes a big drop in running for a tag for the first time after being victimized by two slow early paces in a row downstate. There’s some speed signed on here, and that plus the class relief makes this one formidable; PROGNOSTICATION: Has never missed the board in five career turf starts, but also hasn’t run since October and drew a dreadful post position. He’s got a few strong recent works, though, and he could be good enough to win if he’s ready; LUSITANO: Is another dropping in class, and he may benefit from a return to a two-turn route of ground. His two races earlier this year at Tampa were solid, and the presence of Javier Castellano is certainly a plus.